A still from the TV advertisement protesting the Stockbridge-Munsee off-reservation casino deal

Oneida Ad Spotlights Schumer's "Back Room Deal" for Off Reservation Casino

Gale Courey Toensing
2/6/11

The Oneida Indian Nation has launched a TV ad campaign that takes Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to task for his role in “a back room deal” to give a Wisconsin tribe permission to own and operate a casino in Sullivan County in New York State.

Schumer and former Gov. David Paterson conducted under-the-radar negotiations with the Wisconsin-based Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians until Paterson announced the deal in late November just weeks before his term ended. The deal gives the band 330 acres of land in Sullivan County, where it intends to build a $700 million casino, in exchange for dropping its 23,000 acre land claim in Madison County. The Stockbridge-Munsee band owns and operates the successful North Star Mohican Resort Casino in Bowler, Wis., where its 22,000-plus-acre reservation is located—more than 1,000 miles and several states away from the Catskills location.

“Something’s really wrong when the profits from this casino go back to Wisconsin,” the ad charges.

The ad, titled "Shameful", is running in major downstate media markets. Additional ads are expected to begin running early next week. To see the ad, click here.

The deal drew strong criticism from New York-based Indian tribes, environmental groups, New York businesses, racino owners and elected officials—with the exception of Schumer and some county officials who are embroiled in litigation with the Oneida Nation.

The Interior Department still needs to approve the deal. It has until Feb. 18 to render a decision. The department has been bombarded with letters of opposition from the Oneida Nation and the Seneca Nation of Indians, who say that the deal is illegal, and from racino owners who believe the new casino would negatively impact their businesses. Oneida’s ad spotlights how the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens could be harmed by the new casino.

“Senator Schumer needs to work with Governor Cuomo and the U.S. Department of Interior to stop this deeply flawed agreement from going forward,” the Oneida Nation said in a media prelease.

A group of sixteen New York lawmakers is the latest to voice opposition to the Stockbridge-Munsee’ deal. The group wrote a letter to Cuomo Jan. 18, asking him to withdraw the state from the deal.

“It is evident this deal was done in secrecy, raising questions of motives, as the disclosure of the agreement was not promulgated until the agreement had matured,” the lawmakers wrote.

Cuomo has not taken a position on the Stockbridge-Munsee deal yet.

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